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Bandon's Wizards Hat Rock, Komax or Howling Dog? Oregon Coast Landmark Puzzle

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By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Bandon's Wizards Hat Rock, Komax or Howling Dog? Oregon Coast Landmark Puzzle

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Will the real Wizards Hat Rock please stand up? And maybe Howling Dog Rock and / or Komax? (Above: Howling Dog Rock looks like a wizard hat from the north. Photos courtesy Manuela Durson - see Manuela Durson Fine Arts for more)

These south Oregon coast landmarks have hundreds of photos of them floating around the electronic ether, but the rock structures have an identity problem. As of this writing, even Google Maps apparently has it wrong. It's hard to tell which one is Howling Dog Rock (also sometimes called Komax, after the dog in the Face Rock legend) and which one is Wizards Hat Rock. There are plenty who say Howling Dog is also Wizards Hat – it just depends on the angle you see it. Others are adamant there are two distinct rocks: Wizards Hat is about 400 feet south of Howling Dog.

Unfortunately it's possible they're all correct. The problem is there is no official designation by any local or regional entity. The answer depends on whom you talk to in Bandon.

Howling Dog - see Manuela Durson Fine Arts for more

Howling Dog has simply been known as that for a long time – but definitely less than 100 years. It seems about 1907 it was called Sphinx Rock (according to a 1907 article provided to Oregon Coast Beach Connection by the Bandon Historical Society Museum). The odd issue with Howling Dog is that it shape-shifts. It literally all depends on your perspective. From which direction you view the rock dictates its configuration. View it from the north and it looks more like a wizard hat. From the southeast, it takes on an outline more like a howling mutt.

Farther south, Wizards Hat really does look more like its name, and it does so from most angles (and no, there's no apostrope in Wizards).

Wizard's Hat from the north - note how it's not bent at the top

All of this takes place just north and south of Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint in Bandon, a big Oregon coast attraction in and of itself. Like the geology of this place, which varies from 50 million years old to over 200 million years old, it's an enormous mixed bag of objects in and around the tideline. [How Bandon's Face Rock Was Created A Wild S. Oregon Coast Geologic Tale]

Yet there's lots of spire-like rock structures on Bandon Beach, and you'll occasionally see other random structures as being labeled Wizards Hat.

Local photographer Steven Michael Smith is the most vocal proponent of the two separate rocks idea: indeed that explanation makes the most sense. He told Oregon Coast Beach Connection the confusion comes with people seeing Howling Dog for the first time from the north, and that coupled with the Harry Potter craze causes visitors to jump to conclusions.

Wizards Hat from the south

Manuela Durson, another local photographer, has snapped perhaps hundreds of pictures of this area. She agrees with Smith.

“From what I’ve learned, Wizards Hat is an entirely different sea stack then Howling Dog,” Durson said.

Where to look?

“Wizards Hat is south of Face Rock Viewpoint, Howling Dog is north of Face Rock viewpoint, near 'The Castle,' “ she said. The Castle is a stretch of rock that sits a bit back from the tideline and is considerably larger than Howling Dog.

Smith went a few levels further. The GPS coordinates for Howling Dog is Lat. 43.107698; Long. -124.436036. For the actual Wizards Hat Rock the coordinates are Lat. 43.102831; Long. -124.434989. On Google Maps, the format is slightly different: 43°06'10.2"N 124°26'06.0"W.

What's the easiest way to tell the difference between the two? For one, Wizards Hat stays a pointy shape from all angles, while Howling Dog shifts as you walk around it.

“Wizards Hat looks like an actual Wizard's hat: it does not bend at the top,” Durson said. “The Howling Dog sea stack, often mistaken as the Wizards Hat, does bend at the top.”

However, asking other locals will get you different answers at times. The Bandon Historical Society Museum said it couldn't be very helpful with these questions, as they asked other volunteers and came up with differing answers. One volunteer there said Howling Dog has always had the dual name of Wizards Hat; another said she did not believe Wizards Hat existed.

Volunteer Jim Proehl said he'd never really been aware of the two different identities, and a walk around that beach didn't shed any light on it for him.

So far, the number of those able to respond to Oregon Coast Beach Connection that hold to the two-rock idea have been limited; other contacts simply said they didn't know or came up with completely different ideas altogether. The search will continue on this subject and more information will be provided soon.

In the meantime, the general theory about how the term Wizards Hat came about was simply the occurrence of Harry Potter. Proehl agreed that whatever is in the culture at the moment can make waves in what rocks are called what around Bandon.

Smith says he thinks the Wizards Hat name came about in the '90s when a photographer had a somewhat famous photograph of that spot hanging in Bandon, and that was the title. He believes it's a lot like how Thor's Well near Yachats got its name: a photographer coined it and it stuck.

In any case, Smith said it was the internet and social media that expanded the misunderstandings, and now it's almost impossible to get the story straight. Also see Many Faces of Bandon's Face Rock on Southern Oregon Coast 

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